To Old Paradise Yard in North Lambeth to join Simon Jacobs, friends, family and groupies for the launch of Simon’s long-awaited album, Circle Line.
I say long-awaited…some tracks on the album, the song Circle Line included, I recall Simon playing and me bootlegging onto cassette 35 to 40 years ago.
People had come from far and wide for this launch. As far west as Bristol, where Simon’s kid sister Sue lives…
As far north as Lincolnshire, where several of Simon’s family members live. As far south-east as Hong Kong, from whence the delightful and redoubtable Ting Ting had ventured specially to support the launch.
The venue was Eduard’s IKLECTIK Lab at Old Paradise Yard. Eduard himself was one of several really interesting, good company people we got to meet and chat with over the evening. Timothy, Lydia and Ting Ting were similarly people we met for the first time with whom Janie and I felt immediately at ease.
“I don’t have any more…just relax and party”, said Simon.
And so we did.
Mark Lewis turned up, which was a very pleasant surprise, having not seen him for decades. Janie enjoyed meeting him too. Mark triggered an old memory or three that I must retro-blog soon while the memories are fresh. Indeed, seeing several members of the Jacobs family gathered together again, including Simon’s mum, brought back many memories too.
on Tuesday 8th August, about half way through the evening, I went from ‘absolutely fine’ to ‘really not fine at all’ and I had to go to bed with no story. And today I’m properly better after the nastiest bout of ‘flu I’ve had in many a long year. This was proper delirious flu – unable to even think of getting out of bed… So there were many reasons why 8th August was not the right night for us to meet!
Having been brought up to think of others before myself in times of crisis, I responded with all the altruistic empathy my soul could muster:
OMG I might have caught the lurgy from you and then where would I have been?…I mean, poor old you, that must have been awful for you, my first and only thought is for your welfare.
Simon enjoyed the hand cured smoked salmon starter, while I tried the crispy squid. Simon went for the Bavette steak while I went for the Cod with fregula…
…what do you mean, you don’t know what fregula is? Surely everyone knows what fregula is!
For desert, we were persuaded to try the signature peanut butter, chocolate and pretzel tart, which we cut in half to share, along with a plate of presumably also-signature bitter chocolate and manuka honey truffles. While these desserts sound especially yummy by description, they were, in fact, incredibly yummy.
The Thursday evening was a semi-regular-style gathering of the old Alleyn’s clan in the City. John Eltham tends to organise it and who would have bet against Johnny being the “get together monitor” back in the school days? He wrote:
here is the plan:
7.00pm Walrus & Carpenter public house- 45 Monument Street
8.30pm wander a whole 10 yards to Rajasthan curry shop ( our usual)
I pre-announced that I didn’t expect to get to the pub until 7:30/8:00 – as I had long-since arranged a game of real tennis early evening.
So I arrived at about 7:50 to be told by Mr David Wellbrook (who else) that I was late and needed to assume drinks monitor duties.
Fortunately (and quite naturally) it was John Eltham who was holding the float, to which I added my share and then three of us (Ollie Goodwin the kind third) shared the burden of getting the round in. A small float of “poppadom money” survived the round.
Early April but such glorious weather – we were gathered outside the Walrus and Carpenter enjoying the setting sun and getting a bit cooler, yet not cold.
Indeed it was quite close to 8:30 when Johnny remarked that it was starting to get a bit parky…nippy even…but in any case it was time to regroup in The Rajasthan.
That restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. Long-used to getting unco-ordinated groups of city folk to gather themselves and place their orders – it all just sort-of happens in that restaurant and it is always a decent (if not exceptional) meal.
My eye was caught by Hariali chicken, which is minimally-described as “Cooked to Chef’s special recipe”. I asked the waiter, who mumbled, “curry-leaf, lemongrass, lots of herbs and spices, very very nice” and I was convinced. Most if not all the others at our table paid far less attention to the detail of their chosen dishes than that.
Most drank beer, but Ollie Goodwin, Lisa Pavlovsky, one other (was it Jerry Moore?) and I formed a small gang of four for white wine, specifically Nika Tiki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not the best I’ve ever had but a decent example; I’m sure Sir Nigel Godfrey would approve.
At my end of the table I was within chatting distance of Gavin Hamilton, Martin Brassell, Paul Driscoll, Ollie Goodwin, Jerry Moore, John Eltham and Mike Jones. Sadly I missed out on proper chat this time with Rohan Candappa, David Wellbrook, Lisa Pavlovsky, Steve “Peanut” Butterworth and the late Chris Grant. By “late”, I mean “arrived half way through the meal”. Not “deceased”, nor “arrived at 7:50, roughly the time I said I would arrive, Mr Wellbrook”.
As always it was a very pleasant evening indeed. What a treat to be able to take pre dinner drinks outside The Walrus and Carpenter.
Saturday 8 April 2017
Let’s gloss over the Friday, which I had intended to be a “do my own thing/get some blogging done” day but which turned in to a mostly work day. Bitty, stressy work at that, with a shocking game of real tennis thrown in mid-morning.
Saturday, the weather was truly glorious, although Janie and I weren’t really able to take full advantage of the weekend’s exceptional weather until the Sunday.
The guests were Jilly Black, Andrea Dean, Simon Jacobs and Wendy Robbins; all originally friends of mine from BBYO, i.e. going back to when we were teenagers. It is a testament to Janie that she gets on so well with all of them and likewise they have all taken Janie to their hearts.
It wasn’t long-planned as precisely this group of six, but we had wanted to invite Jilly for ages and she had particularly mentioned that she regretted not being able to see Andrea and Wendy at the party, which Jilly missed, last May.
Then, when I saw Simon in January, around the time we were setting this evening up, realising that he knows and likes all of these people, it seemed only sensible to ask him too.
It might seem a bit drawn out to some readers, inviting people in early January and setting a date for April, but by our (admittedly rather low) temporal standards, I think we got the gathering planned and implemented pretty quickly.
And everyone turned up.
Janie went to town with exotic nibbles; thai-style fish cakes, some flaky-pastry-meaty-parcels and a wonderful chicken liver pate on toasted french stick.
Between the nibbles and the main course I tried to pacify the guests with a few numbers on Benjy the Baritone Ukulele.
Andrea and Wendy, who are dear, dear friends of mine, appreciative of, but not experts on, music, declared that I have truly mastered the instrument. Jilly and Simon, who are also both dear, dear friends of mine, fine musicians to boot, were both clearly so moved by my performance that neither of them was able to add to Andrea and Wendy’s judgement. I think that says it all.
It did get a little chilly by the time we went inside. Some might even say “nippy” or “parky”. Anyway, inside we went.
The centrepiece of the meal was Janie’s signature beef with wasabi sauce dish, which works so well for gatherings of this size and which we knew would be novel to our guests. We’d have to eat it very often indeed to tire of it.
After the main course, chocolates, tropical fruits etc.
Less Trump/Brexit talk than usual these days – which was a blessed relief really.
Wendy told us the story of her recent visit to Downing Street, which really needs to be an episode of a sit-com, rather than an after dinner anecdote.
It was really nice to see everyone and (cliche alert) the evening flew by.
We could do nibbles on the patio again this evening, Sunday – the weather remains glorious. As I write, the sun is still streaming in through the window of my little man cave here in Noddyland.
While I was posting this piece, Simon Jacobs uploaded a couple of tracks from his forthcoming album. It was possibly one of those Brian Wilson/Lennon-McCartney creative tension moments after hearing my exquisite baritone ukulele playing last night. As Simon himself says on Facebook:
After 3 decades of procrastination, I’ve finally recorded some of my own songs – and now the first two of them are on YouTube (one of them even has a video!)
So please take a listen, subscribe, share with your friends and post your comments… Then, sometime in the summer I’ll release a whole album through the usual channels, tour the world and then of course there’ll be the drugs and the groupies, the breakdown and rehab, the bizarre plastic surgery, the invitation to be an X Factor judge – all the usual humiliations.
Ogblog readers might well enjoy one or both of these tracks:
Simon and I had intended to meet up before Christmas, but as December hove into view, we both felt that a get together might work better after the seasonal holiday, rather than before.
Simon suggested the Old Suffolk Punch in Hammersmith, which seemed a suitable enough venue to me, so that element was agreed and Simon said that he would book it.
What I didn’t realise, until the day itself, was that Simon had committed us to a very particular activity for the evening. Here is part of Simon’s message on the day confirming the details:
…cute online booking form that requests to know what the occasion is… it gives options to choose like: ‘family gathering’, ‘to watch the rugby’, ‘TGIF’, ‘just because’ – but I opted for ‘good old chinwag’. I guess they’ll be watching to make sure that’s what we do…
This had me worried for the rest of the day. I thought we were meeting up, “just because” and I had been looking forward that.
I tried to do some chin-wagging training at the gym that morning and indeed at the office that afternoon, but frankly I didn’t do very well at it during the day and wasn’t at all sure whether I would be up to the task that evening.
I did gently reproach Simon in my reply to his message:
I’m not sure you were authorised to make a decision on that scale, Simon, but I forgive you this once…
I then had an awkward journey to Hammersmith. Despite the tube announcers constantly telling me that there was a good service on the lines, it took 40 minutes for me to get the four stops from Notting Hill Gate to Hammersmith. As Simon said when I arrived, “thank goodness that was a good service”.
But there was far worse to come.
We got our food order in quickly. While we waited for our food, we made a start on the rather tasty bottle of Rioja we had chosen. Within a couple of minutes, Brexit was on the chinwag agenda; indeed before I had even taken off my coat Simon named a particularly venal Brexiteer; a recent Work and Pensions Minister who years ago had briefly been leader of the Tory party.
Simon didn’t merely say his trademark initials or “…Whatsit” (as the Daniel Blake character refers to him in the movie I, Daniel Blake. Yes, Simon uttered the full name. Without so much as a trigger warning.
On hearing THAT name (IDS, not I Daniel Blake), I immediately realised how extremely hot I felt in my coat and how much I wanted to wash my hands, especially before eating, having been on a crowded tube. So I rapidly took off my coat, made my excuses and dashed to the washroom.
By the time I returned, Simon had realised his mistake; indeed he thought he might have triggered a more profound reaction than mere hand washing.
But the truly extraordinary thing about our gathering was that, despite those desperate depths in the run up and start to the evening, in the end we had a most enjoyable time.
The food was very good, in a “good ingredients cooked quite simply, but well” sense. The bottle of Rioja did a grand job. The evening flew by and we weren’t chastised by the staff for inadequate levels of chin-wagging even once. Indeed it is quite possible that we were in fact chin-wagging rather well.
We haven’t yet been invited back to chinwag competitively for the Old Suffolk Punch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got the call.
And I’d be even less surprised if we find a suitable opportunity in the not too distant future to meet up again.
I even had a stellar tube journey back from Hammersmith to Notting Hill Gate, at a near-record speed of 20 minutes or so door-to-door, without so much as a single announcer telling me that the service was good.
Simon Jacobs joined me at Lord’s on the first day as a result of Charley “The Gent” Malloy’s indisposition.
I had secured the same front row of the Lower Compton seats for this day as I had on Day One of the Sri Lanka test a few weeks ago. I walked all the way, using my new “temporary rucksack” method strapping my picnic bags equally weighted on my back and got to Lord’s nice and early. I chatted for a while with a gentleman neighbour who had similarly booked the same seats for both Thursdays.
Simon phoned me just before the game started to say that he was queuing outside and arrived at his seat having missed two overs, no runs and no wickets.
At one point, I warned Simon that he would need a pseudonym for my King Cricket reporting and Ogblog purposes. I even offered him a chance to select his own pseudonym, but that point soon got lost in other conversation.
Towards the end of the day, the conversation turned to Simon’s godson, who has recently moved to London to live and work, so Simon is now able to see a lot more of the young man.
“The only problem is the Generation Y language”, said Simon. “Example. I sent him a text arranging to take him out for a meal and the reply came back:
…I’m not sure about my name being abbreviated to Simo and I am sure that the adjective ‘awesome’ is excessive for such a small matter.”
“Good point, Simo”, I said. “What adjective would the lad use if something genuinely awe-inspiring were to happen to him?”
“Exactly”, said Awesome Simo.
We then tried to banter a bit in young-person speak, but we were terrible at it. “Wicked”, “warped”, “sick”…it was a peculiar amalgam of yoof slang expressions from the 1990’s up to around 2010. We all-but admitted defeat…
…it was just a few overs before stumps and Awesome Simo had to leave, so our conversation continued by text, at least in the matter of keeping Simo appraised on the match. A few minutes after he left, a text from me to Simo:
Wkt Woakes awesome Simo
A few minutes later, me to Simo again:
Final ball wkt Woakes again totes amazeballs
As I was walking home, a text from Awesome Simo to me:
Wow amazing thanks again for like totally the best day EVER
‘Twas the second day of Middlesex’s cricket season and my first glimpse of live cricket for far too long. Charley “the Gent” Malloy was my guest for the day.
I went to the gym first thing, then on to the bakers for fresh bread and then the flat to prepare the picnic. Cray fish breakfast muffins and wild Alaskan salmon in poppy-seed bagels formed the highlight of the feast. A fruity little Kiwi Riesling was the highlight beverage.
Charley was waiting for me at the Grace Gate and looked at his watch as I arrived, as if to say “where have you been?” In fact, we had both arrived some minutes ahead of the appointed hour, which was probably just as well, as Charley wasn’t moving too quickly. “Done me knee,” said Charley.
In accordance with our tradition, Charley and I sat on death row; the front row of the lower tier of the pavilion. Normally, our backs can only tolerate death row for a while, but as it turned out, our knee problems probably served to mask any back pain. Further, with Charley’s limited mobility and no chance of sun that day anywhere in the ground, we ended up staying put on death row for the whole day.
I described to Charley my correspondence with King Cricket on the matter of match reports henceforward. Charley liked my ideas about writing book reviews and recipes for King Cricket, while posting reports of this kind on Ogblog. I wondered whether I should revert to real names here on Ogblog, but Charley felt that the characters’ names were a tradition and allowed me a bit more poetic licence. (Little does Charley realise that I write with reckless abandon, at least in the matter of creative licence, regardless of naming conventions).
It was seriously chilly but Charley and I had both wrapped up warm and were chatting eagerly; the start of the season holds so many exciting possibilities. So the day passed very quickly. With just over an hour left to play, the umpires decided that the slight gloom which had pervaded for much of the day had become a little too gloomy, so off came the players and that was that for the day. Charley and I stuck around for a while, partly in hope more than expectation and partly to warm up with some coffee inside the pavilion before heading home. We’d had a very good day.
I returned to Lord’s the next day, primarily for meetings, but with the hope and expectation that I’d get to see some cricket too. Indeed, as a couple of the meetings got postponed, I got to see much of the day’s cricket and get some good reading done.
It was a much sunnier day, so I decided to take up position on the north side of the middle tier balcony. As soon as I plonked myself down, I sensed that I might be blocking Dougie Brown’s view. So the moment I heard “excuse me”, in that unmistakable Scottish accent, I started to shift along the row and checked that all now had a clear view. Dougie was chatting with Peter Such and soon Graham Thorpe joined them, but my mind was firmly on my book, A Confederacy of Dunces (read nothing into the juxtaposition, folks) and of course I was taking in the cricket.
Despite the sun, it still wasn’t warm and I hadn’t donned my thermals on the Tuesday. Also, I was quite peckish by about 12:30, as Charley and I had picnicked sensibly the day before and/but I had only snacked in the evening. So I went to the upstairs bar and bought a nice chunky sandwich and a hot cup of coffee for my lunch, both of which I downed with great pleasure. The bar was mostly populated with Warwickshire 1882 Club members talking exclusively about soccer football.
After my lunch, I retired to the writing room, where I thought I’d get some quiet and a decent view of the cricket protected from the cold. To some extent, my plan worked, especially the matter of getting some reading done and shield myself from the cold.
But my attempts to make headway with this Ogblog piece were continually thwarted. Initially, for a few brief minutes, I was distracted by the arms of Morpheus. Then when play resumed, there were interruptions and enough going on in the cricket to tear me away repeatedly from my little Kindle Fire gadget. No matter.
The interruptions came primarily in two forms:
unpleasant aerial noise from a plethora of helicopters overhead;
After the helicopter crescendo and witnessing Trott complete his double-hundred (they seem to be like double-decker buses, these double-hundreds), I then had an interesting chat with a couple of the remaining writing room gentlemen. The younger of the two had been a teacher at Highbury Grove School when Rhodes Boyson was the head, which made for an interesting chat. I said that I remembered protesting against Boyson’s cuts when he was an Education Minister and I was a student. The older of the two gentlemen suggested that they might be in the company of a dangerous leftist, to which I countered that the chap who had been teaching in an Islington Comprehensive in the 1970s had, by definition, more “dangerous leftist credentials” than me.
I did not share with those gentlemen the clear memory, which popped into my head, of an anti-cuts protest we staged in the early 1980s outside the UGC Building in Bloomsbury. I’ll need to go through my diaries to write that one up properly and no doubt Simon Jacobs will again deny all memory of the business. Suffice it to say here that a similarly garbed non-violent protest stunt, staged these days, might be inadvisable to say the very least.
I was spotted by one or two other friends and associates at that writing room table, who stopped by for an early season hello and quick chat. Richard Goatley arrived to whisk me away soon after those interludes, so I had a quick drink with Richard and a few other people in the Bowlers’ Bar, then headed for home a few overs before stumps.
I hadn’t seen Simon Jacobs for more years than either of us care/dare to recall. A combination of Facebook group postings/chats and some of my sample Ogblog activity got us e-chatting. We e-agreed that W2, W3 and W6 should not exactly be geographically challenging distances.
So we decided on the Stonemasons Arms in Hammersmith – Simon’s patch. As it turned out, I needed to go into the City that day. Commuting to Hammersmith rather than home is not much further. But it did mean that I was suited, booted and hatted, whereas Simon was wearing normal clothes.
Simon and I started our catch up chat. We considered talking for a minute each on the subject “what I have been up to since last we met” without hesitation, repetition, deviation or repetition. But we decided to go for a more free-form approach to the chat.
Surprisingly soon, our food arrived. Except it wasn’t our starter of crispy squid; it was our mains. Simon enquired after the squid and the waiter was hugely apologetic, offering even to bring the squid as a side order for us at no charge, but we declined that offer and agreed that it didn’t matter.
We then continued our interesting chat over the very tasty meal before us. A few elements of the reminiscence and chat hit on items that I have written up on Ogblog. In each of those cases I said that I would send Simon a link when I got home but…
…I didn’t write any of those items down. It’s OK, I’ll wing it and send Simon a few vaguely suitable Ogblog links. I don’t suppose he’ll remember which ones I actually promised, so I’m sure I’ll get away with it, as long as no-one grasses on me to Simon on this point.
It really was a very pleasant evening; I was surprised when I looked at my watch to realise that three hours had sailed by.
I hope we don’t leave it quite so long until next we meet; we really will both be old gits by then.
Yesterday, Jon sent me an e-mail with some more scans that made me smile even wider, relating to some student union election shenanigans in February 1983. I wrote a brief note of those a few years ago for the Keele Oral History Project – click here – but now, thanks to Jon and his scanning machine, I can relate the story far more accurately and colourfully for Ogblog. I’ll write that up soon – something for Ogblog enthusiasts and lovers of student politics to look forward to.
So Jon’s documents sent me to my 1983 diary and that got me thinking about the 1983 general election, our very first one as voters.
There are many similarities between 1983 and 2017; an aging, unpopular Labour leader, splits in the Labour party, a Tory woman Prime Minister looking to increase her majority and power…
…there are also many differences. I’m not so fearful of the far right parties this time, whereas we were genuinely (but mistakenly) worried that the National Front and/or British National Party might make ground in 1983. Perhaps the Tories have simply moved onto much of that turf now, albeit with less visceral policies. I’m not so sure that Theresa May will achieve a 1983 Maggie style result – certainly the polls are less clear (or less trusted) in 2017. For sure all the main parties have put up dreadful campaigns in 2017 – I didn’t feel that way in 1983 – the Tories at least seemed like an unstoppable election machine back then.
Before I looked at the relevant page in my 1983 diary, I would have sworn that I remembered following election night in Liza O’Connor’s Rectory Road Shelton digs with a mixture of my Keele friends and Liza’s North Staffs Poly art & design flatmates.
But it wasn’t quite like that and now I do remember.
Thing was, I was bang slap in the middle of my Part One law degree finals.
As I now recall it, I had voted by post in my parent’s constituency (Streatham) where we felt that there was a chance that Labour might win, whereas John Golding (for whom even then I would have struggled to hold my nose and vote) had a safe as houses seat in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. My Streatham plan didn’t work in 1983 – by the time Streatham switched from Tory to Labour in 1992, I was voting in Kensington North.
Now, through boundary changes, my constituency is Kensington, with a Brexity Tory MP in a strongly non-Brexit but utterly safe seat. I’m finding it hard to hold my nose and vote for anyone today, but of course I shall and it won’t be for Lady Brexit-Borwick.
My 9 June 1983 diary note is quite pithy:
Did some work in day. Jon, Simon & Vince came to Rectory Road for tea – we came back to Keele in eve. Panicy.
“Jon” is Jon Gorvett, “Simon” is Simon Jacobs, “Vince” is Vince Beasley.
So my abiding memory of sitting around for hours debating politics with those people was correct – but it was during the day, not election night.
The reason I was “panicy”/panicky was because I had a couple of part one finals papers the very next day. I suspect that the others had finished their finals exams by then. Jon might remember his circumstances. Simon always claims to remember nothing at all.
So I think we held our 1983 election post mortem…pre mortem. I remember debating what next and all that sort of post mortem stuff.
So in 1983 we really knew (or thought we really knew) the result before polls closed – we just wondered exactly how bad it was going to be.
Political life doesn’t feel so certain to me now. Is that my age/experience showing or does that tell us more about the political age we now live in?
Thanks for triggering the memories, Jon Gorvett.
Comments on Ogblog pieces are always welcome but especially so on this piece.
He had recently uncovered some old Keele scraps, including the following press clippings:
So there we have it. Page 11 of the Evening Sentinel but, more importantly, Page 3 of the Morning Star.
Jon is the young man with the “numerate graduates” placard in the first photo above (naturally Jon has gone on to become a foreign correspondent journalist). Jon is also seen wielding a mallet on the far left of the Morning Star picture.
I can be seen in the first photo struggling to retain hold of both the campus model and my sartorial dignity (wearing THAT donkey jacket). I’m gutted that a photo with me in it didn’t make it to Page 3 of the Morning Star, despite the donkey jacket.
Of course I am still part of the story in the Morning Star. But still, it’s not my image on Page 3. Close but no cigar.
The compensation for my Page 3 disappointment, though, is to be reconnected with Jon Gorvett. He and his treasure trove of clippings might prove very helpful for future Ogblog pieces about the Keele years. I also strongly suspect, based on our e-mail exchanges over the past couple of days, that I shall very much enjoy his company once our paths cross sufficiently for us to meet again in real life.
I resolved to dig out my diaries and see if I could find out some more about it. Soon enough, I found this page:
Actually the diary entry is not too revealing about this protest. Nor are the pages around it, which refer a lot to “meeting up with the usual friends…various people…some people…the crowd…” as if I would naturally remember all the details when I want them, 34 years later.
Indeed, the entries around the time of the protest have triggered many other memories about how I felt at that time and why I started to plot my escape from halls of residence into an on-campus flat in the early months of that year. Another story for another posting or two.
So I must rely almost entirely on memory for this story.
“The Cuts” (to university grants) was the biggest political issue on the higher education agenda at that time. There were marches and things, which I attended occasionally, but I’ve never been a great one for marches.
A few of us decided that we needed to do something a bit more eye-catching, yet unquestionably in the non-violent protest arena. We hatched a plan for a media/profile grabbing event; a dramatic protest outside the University Grants Committee (UGC) offices on one of their big committee days, when Rhodes Boyson would be attending; 6 January 1982.
In simple terms, we would make a crude replica of our Keele Campus and destroy it in front of the UGC building while the committee met, announcing “this is what you are doing to our University”. Naturally we would alert the media in advance to the fact that there would be “a happening” outside the building during the UGC meeting.
In order to implement our plot, several of us returned to Keele immediately after Christmas. I’m trying to remember who was involved. I’m pretty sure Jon Gorvett and Truda Smith were involved and they do get a name drop in my diary 2 January. I’m also pretty sure that Simon Jacobs was heavily involved, although something tells me that he did not return to Keele early, but joined us in London on the day. For some reason my mind is linking Diana Ball with this event, but I might be mistaken. Similarly I think Toby Bourgein had a leading hand in plotting the protest and possibly even drove the minibus down from Keele, but again I might be mistaken. Surely Pete Roberts was involved?
I love the fact that my diary entry says that I signed on before we set off for London to protest. In those days, the ridiculous student grant system meant that the grant only applied to the term-time weeks and that you had to sign on to the dole to get some money for the non-term weeks. What a palaver for the Social Security people to have to administer.
Of course, the social security system for students has been vastly simplified now; the poor students simply get “the square root of nada”.
I recall that we gathered in a pub on the Hampstead Road, near to Laurence Corner. I’m pretty sure it was the Sols Arms, now defunct. I suppose it was possible to park without restriction on that north side of the Euston Road in those days. We enjoyed a drink in that pub and then all went to the cloakrooms to don dark jumpers and balaclava helmets. We then rescued the crude facsimile of the campus (mostly papier mâché and balsa wood, I think) and our mallets from the union minibus, toddled across the Euston Road to the Bloomsbury offices of the UGC and conducted our protest.
I don’t recall how much media attention we got – press I’m sure but I don’t think the TV people bothered with us. I report being very tired on return, so I guess there was enough buzz to keep us talking for a while. Perhaps we retreated to the Sols Arms for a few more jars before returning to Keele a little tired and emotional. What do I mean, “perhaps”?
These days, of course, I don’t think we’d get very far in those dark tops, balaclava helmets and mallets before the armed fuzz would intervene. You’d be lucky to survive such a stunt. They were simpler times in many ways.
Apologies to anyone named (or not named) for the failings of my memory. If anyone else remembers more about this extraordinary day, I really would love to hear some more memories of it in the comments. I’m sure that, with some help, my own memory of the event could improve.